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Aboriginal Health Equity
26 November, 2019

SAHMRI researcher to lead national diabetes project

Aboriginal Health Equity

A coalition of researchers, clinicians and other health professionals has been entrusted to steer a multi-million-dollar program to address the grossly disproportionate number of Indigenous Australians suffering diabetic foot complications. 

Professor Alex Brown, the leader of SAHMRI’s Aboriginal Health Equity theme and a Professor of Medicine at the University of Adelaide, will lead the team that’s received an initial two-year, $6 million Federal Government grant. 

“Indigenous Australians are almost four times more likely to develop diabetes than the rest of the population,” Professor Brown says. 

“On top of that, Indigenous Australians suffering diabetes are far more likely to experience advanced complications from the disease.” 

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders with diabetes are three times as likely to experience peripheral arterial disease, 10 times as likely to be hospitalised with foot complications and a staggering 38 times more likely to have a lower limb amputated because of diabetes. 

“The reasons behind this disparity are complex but the related costs are broad and significant,” Professor Brown says. 

“The people represented by these statistics are often struck down when they’re in their prime. That not only affects their quality of life and impacts their families, it compromises the contributions they can make to their communities when they should be at their most productive.” 

The diabetes foot complication prevention program will be run throughout South Australia, Western Australia, Northern Territory and Far North Queensland. Its agenda will include assessing the burden of the disease with a focus on foot complications among Indigenous Australians, defining best practice, improving clinical care and developing the workforce to deliver these improvements. Researchers from the coalition will evaluate the program throughout. 

The coalition will comprise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health organisations, clinical researchers, vascular surgeons, diabetologists, allied health professionals, diabetes educators and Diabetes Australia. 

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The SAHMRI community acknowledges and pays respect to the Kaurna people as the traditional custodians of the Adelaide region. We also acknowledge the deep feelings of attachment and the relationship of the Kaurna people to their country. We pay our respects to the Kaurna peoples' ancestors and the living Kaurna people today.